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Why ‘Respeto’ earned respect

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, Respeto captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it.

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Screengrab from YouTube.

Respeto begins with a crowd cheering in a dim lit place, probably a warehouse somewhere in Pandacan, Manila. Two rappers are introduced and later on engage themselves into a rap battle by exchanging words, rhyme, and rhythm and ends with the rapper with the loudest cheer from the audience, winning the competition.

This establishes the highlight of the film: The art of words, rhyme, and rhythm.

Bagging four major awards in this year’s Cinemalaya, namely Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Dido de la Paz, it is not a surprise that Respeto, directed by Treb Monteras II, turns out to be one of the most outstanding Filipino films that have been produced today.

Hendrix, played by Abra, is an aspiring rapper but due to his social status, he was forced to work as a drug mule under his sister’s drug pusher boyfriend, Mando (Brian Arda), who was up to no good. But despite the circumstances, Hendrix did not lose hope on pursuing to become a rapper and was truly supported by his friends, Betchai (Chai Fonacier) and Payaso (Yves Bagadion).

From time to time, Hendrix together with his friends would go to a rap battle gathering named Berso, where aspiring rappers come together to battle with impromptu verses. Short on cash, Hendrix uses Mando’s drug money to join the so-called gathering. Mando eventually finds out and tells Hendrix to pay him back or else he can’t come home. Desperate, Hendrix asked his friends to help him steal from Doc (Dido de la Paz), an old man who lives at the corner street who also owns a second-hand bookstore, and unfortunately, he and his friends were caught in the act. Unsuccessful with their plan, Hendrix and his friends were asked to repair everything they broke in Doc’s bookstore in exchange they would be free of charge. As the story unfolds, Hendrix and Doc’s relationship develops as Hendrix learns about Doc’s history as a writer and as a Martial Law victim.

One of the things that make this film enjoyable to watch is the humor that the characters show despite its heavy theme. There were scenes where Hendrix and his friends share a conversation about their neighbors one by one being killed because their involvement in the war on drugs, and in those conversations Payaso and Betchai would comment in a way how Filipinos would react despite the seriousness of the subject: Always with wittiness and pessimism. What makes it more likable is that how the characters deliver their lines naturally. Also, given it is a film about hip-hop and rap,what made it more enjoyable are the impromptu rap verses that were written by the cast themselves and the musical score by Jay Durias that made it stand out, as it sets the mood of the film which captivates the local hip-hop scene in the Philippines.

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Another reason that makes Respeto as one of the best films produced is its social commentary on present issues in the country, specifically the war on drugs. As told, Hendrix and his friends talk about their neighbors who were killed because of the current administration’s Oplan Tokhang. It also reflected how the war on drugs affected the lives of people in the masses, as for Hendrix, his sister, and her boyfriend, they became drug mules or pushers because of poverty.

What made the film compelling is the use of elements of the old and the new. Focusing on the hip-hop scene in the Philippines and at the same time giving light on local poets and poetry, Monteras showed a different perspective on Philippine hip-hop rap battles by making it in parallel with poetry and the traditional Balagtasan. Also, the relationship between the old and the new was portrayed by Doc and Hendrix, both the embodiment of the traditional and modern. Though at extremes, Doc and Hendrix established a relationship as they learn from each other; Hendrix begins to be true to himself when it comes to his words in rapping as he spent time cleaning up Doc’s bookstore as Doc learns to open his closed doors, despite his past, to Hendrix and his friends. In the context of social issues, the film also showed the current and past issues of the country by paralleling the Martial Law period with the events under the current administration.

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, it truly captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it, as portrayed by Hendrix and his friends.

Respeto reminds us of the reality there is for those people in the masses, especially the youth, that there are a lot of them who are undeniably talented but despite their situation, are not able to reach their goals and dreams. They are affected by the actions of society and become products of these problems as embodied by Hendrix and his friends. Not only it concerns the effect of these social issues on the youth, but also how it affected society as a whole. It showed how these people are shaped by circumstances in the society we live in, and how they would respond to it. As for Hendrix, he was affected by the war on drugs that mirrors Doc’s experience during the Martial Law regime which greatly affected him as a person.

Commenting and reflecting Philippine society and culture, I would give Respeto a 9/10 as I consider it as one of the best Filipino films made as it leaves you heavy-hearted, speechless and at the same time enlightened by its message.

by Hannah Arcenal

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7 Filipino children shows we surely miss

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Art by Justice Gravador/TomasinoWeb.

Kuya Bodjie, Kiko Matsing, Agatom, Ms. Math Tinik—these are just some of the iconic characters every 90s kid almost, if not totally, considered as the “second teacher” of his or her days. But now, it seems the road to becoming “forgotten men” instead is unblocked and all clear for them.

Despite its mission to “inform, inspire and empower our people and nation,” the state-run People’s Television Network agreed to showcase Chinese shows to “better understand its people and their history, culture and endeavour,” thus, creating a clear look at other’s culture while ours is thrown to the muds.

Although there had been decline in terms of ratings and sponsorship in these Filipino shows before, no one can contest that nothing can beat this way of learning!

1. Batibot

 Photo from When In Manila.

Inspired by American children’s show Sesame Street, Batibot made the childhood of the 80s and the 90s generation truly fun and educational with various dance and song numbers, role playing of characters—Ate Sienna (Sienna Olaso), Kuya Bodjie (Bodjie Pascua), Pong Pagong, Kiko Matsing (Pocholo Gonzales), among others—and its successful trademark, puppets! The incomparable show, which discussed almost anything under the sun, inevitably won the hearts of many as it lasted for more than a decade.

2. Sineskwela

Screenshot grabbed from a Sineskwela video uploaded in the official YouTube account of Knowledge Channel.

“Tayo na sa Sineskwela. Tuklasin natin ang siyensiya!”

Who can forget this iconic song?

In collaboration with the Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology, Sineskwela made the biology, chemistry, sound energies, travel of light, astronomy, energy transformation, principles of electricity—need I say more?—easy for viewers to understand! With its easy-to-digest visuals, one-of-a-kind experiments and creative dramatizations, the scientific show became a vital addition to every school’s list of movies to watch. Nothing’s more exciting than the “viewing day” especially when the teacher holds up the school’s (somewhat-aging) copy of Sineskwela.

3. Epol Apple

Photo from When In Manila.

Focusing on basic and conversational English, Epol Apple was designed to improve a child’s skills in listening, speaking and, most especially, grammar. The show taught the proper usage of the language, like the “in,” “on” and “at” of writing a home address. The show made the learning interactive as Bodjie Pascual as Tito Luis did entertaining stories and fun activities with his horn-bill friend, Porfirio.

4. Bayani

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Photo from When In Manila.

With ABS-CBN’s Bayani, who will dare to say that learning history is boring?

As the title stated, it is a children’s show presenting the life of our heroes and their contributions to the country. With the show’s protagonists, Noli and Ana, they leapt through time where they had the opportunity to meet  and interact with the heroes and relive historical events. Aside from narrating and discovering Philippine history, the show also highlighted the value of Filipino identity and heroism.

5. Hiraya Manawari

Photo from The Filipino Channel.

Hiraya Manawari, which figuratively means “reach your dreams,” is a show that uses different legends to incorporate values such as honesty, humility, courage, love, and respect. Each episode highlighted one virtue. Just like today’s fantasy anthology, Wansapanataym, the show creatively used myths as a way to infuse morals on its viewers.

6. Math Tinik

Photo from When In Manila.

Some students tremble upon hearing the word  “Mathematics” but thanks to Math Tinik, 90s kids now know how to multiply by simply just aligning their fingers! Counting and solving numeration, addition, multiplication, decimals, and fractions will never be fun without Charlie, Patricia and their cool teacher, Ms. Math Tinik.

7. Art Angel

Photo from PEP.ph.

It’s Saturday. Armed with bond paper, crayola, and scissors, the children are brimming with excitement as they wait for the Art Angel to play on those television screens.

With hosts Kuya Tonipet and Ate Pia, and their trusty friend, Pintado, they turned every kid’s 30 minutes filled with beauty of colors and creativity. Running for a total of 370 episodes, it gained numerous recognitions, and also the hearts of the people.

Cartoons are one of the avenues where children start to learn since the playful themes make learning less intimidating and more interactive. During these early stages of learning, children are quick to absorb information through language, graphics and values being presented.

With the decision of PTV to showcase Chinese cartoons, will the upcoming generation ever have the chance to experience the beauty of our own culture before anyone else’s anymore?

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Blackpink is back in your area with ‘Square Up’

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Photo from BLACKPINK's ‘뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)’ official music video.

After various false alarms and 10 years of being locked up in YG Entertainment’s dungeons, Blackpink is finally back in our area with a brand new music video and a mini-album with four new songs…which is a bit of a let-down to say the least, especially for fans who eagerly waited for the quartet’s long-overdue comeback.

With that out of the way, Square Up comes nearly a year after Blackpink’s last comeback, As If It’s Your Last, and while the single saw the group veering  into poppier territory than their previous releases, Square Up fully commits itself to a more hip-hop and trap-heavy sound typical of YG releases.

Title track Ddu-du Ddu-du best exemplifies this sound. Reading like a diss track to Blackpink’s haters, the song indulges in trap beats as well as stronger and sharper rapping lines from Jennie and Lisa, with lyrics laced with in-your-face braggadocio, showcasing the quarter in a fiercer image reminiscent of their debut singles Boombayah and Whistle, and perhaps even senior labelmates 2NE1.

While the track also turns the spotlight on the group’s vocal chops as Rosé and Jisoo take turns in belting out the song’s soaring pre-chorus, the best part of Ddu-du Ddu-du, however, is its raga-inspired dance break in the outro, giving the song its much needed climax.

The album’s second track, Forever Young, is arguably the strongest cut from the album. The track kicks off with Jennie’s soulful vocals and trades the swagger of Ddu-du Ddu-du for a euphoric us-against-the-world dancehall anthem that recalls As If It’s Your Last.

Just as when the song’s romantic tone begins to feel a bit cloying, Forever Young abruptly shifts gears as it transitions to a sultry revolutionary call-to-arms before exploding into a full-blown dance party, complete with horns, chants, and hints of oriental synths buried in the background. Almost every element of the song makes perfect sense, and it stands out as one of Blackpink’s best efforts so far.

Nonetheless, growing pains emerge with the mini album’s latter half, as the last two tracks simply do not possess the energy of the first half.

Breezy trap ballad Really slows things down following Forever Young’s high-octane dance break, which only highlights the song’s blandness and middle-of-the-road quality. It has its charms, nonetheless, and it takes numerous listens to be fully appreciated – like Jisoo trying a bit of rap-singing in the verses to Lisa’s romantic bars – but it lacks charisma and swagger that would’ve otherwise turned the song into an empowering love song. It also painfully sounds like a 2NE1 outtake; as much as the song fits nicely with Blackpink’s concept, it’s hard not to imagine the song being sung by their seniors who could probably pull off the song’s innate swagger without much effort.

The mini album’s closing kiss-off track, See U Later, shows promise in its night-drive moody verses but its abrupt shift to a trap chorus makes the song messy and disjointed, and is ultimately forgettable for a closing track.

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Photo from BLACKPINK’s ‘뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)’ official music video.

It is, perhaps, understandable why opinion on Square Up is noticeably divided even among fans, as the mini album sees Blackpink move further into merely emulating the “YG sound” without letting them explore a musical and artistic identity that would otherwise set the quartet apart not only from their contemporaries but also from their predecessors.

Tempering the aggressive swagger of their seniors, Blackpink’s braggadocio in tracks like Ddu-du Ddu-du is an attempt to differentiate the group from the dominantly cute and sexy concepts of other popular girl groups, but their bragging feels empty – they haven’t exactly proven that much to brag about, and their attempts to execute fierceness during live performances feels awfully forced.

What has worked for Blackpink so far are dramatic songs like Playing With Fire, As If It’s Your Last and Forever Young which saw Blackpink flirting less with hip-hop and more with poppier sounds and genres not usually associated with YG or Teddy Park’s production.

However, much of the group’s oeuvre would show that they still exist in the shadows of 2NE1 – and it is disappointing that, two years into their career, YG is still holding them back from releasing a full album and is purposefully grooming them to fill the niche carved and left by 2NE1.

Nonetheless, Square Up is quality material, and it shows strong promise and potential: It allows Blackpink to put one feet on an already successful but unoriginal formula and another on trying new sounds and concepts that could otherwise cement their place in K-pop as a standalone group.

Perhaps, Square Up is a beta test – which could probably explain why YG only allows Blackpink to release only few songs every once in a while: To evaluate and tap into current and emerging trends that the group could incorporate in the future. Only time can tell when Blackpink will finally be the revolution they proudly proclaimed.

 

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Continuing to break the silence

As we come near the end of Women’s Month, Danielle Baranda looks back on the continuing impact of the #MeToo movement.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Raslton/AFP.

This month is a celebration.

This month, women from all over the globe unite and stand together as one solid frontier. This month is a reminder of the change continuing to unfold right in front of us—we are reminded and we celebrate women of all races and skin color. We tip our hats off to those brave voices we heard just last year, and further elevate those who are still falling short.

All it took was one voice that mustered the courage to speak up. A voice that resonated among a mass of silenced victims, a voice that would point out its oppressor and lead to several others following suit—several voices crying out, “Me too!”

Just as 2017 ended, we at TomasinoWeb looked back at this movement in its entirety (READ: #TWenty: The 2017 TomasinoWeb Year-ender—#MeToo). The fast pace of how allegations surfaced left and right was overwhelming that attempting to summarize it in one whole article proved to be difficult, but that was a good thing and it still is.

Three months into the year and the stories still keep on coming. Come to think of it, it has become the new normal. In our first analysis of the #MeToo movement, the sad normal reality we had come to conclude at the time was that people were dismissing these stories as nothing out of the ordinary.

A lot has changed since then, and admittedly, not everyone is happy about it.

Last January, Taken actor Liam Neeson went on the record in defense of his friend Dustin Hoffman. He dismissed the still growing #MeToo movement as having turned into a witch hunt, but has it?

The idea of gray zone sex recently resurfaced after an online post regarding an uncomfortable sexual encounter involving Parks and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari went viral. According to an article from The New York Times, the gray zone is defined as a sexual encounter that cannot necessarily be filed under the tag of sexual assault but is also a little too disconcerting to be simply named as a bad date either.

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Another allegation that initially floated around last year which still found its way this year involved American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Although coming out of the allegations relatively unscathed due to a two month investigation instigated by the E! Network which ended in favor of Seacrest, still there are persistent skeptics.

It is important to take note that Ryan Seacrest is the producer of everyone’s beloved Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making him a key stakeholder within the network which brings me to the very point of this little update—like everything else, the #MeToo movement is not perfect, but that does not mean that it is a witch hunt nor is it a trend that’ll one day just fade away.

It is our duty to listen to these voices still coming forward. Yes, there may be discrepancies when it comes to their stories, but let us not forget that these women are trying to recall and retell a story of how they were abused. And that will never be an easy one to share.

Let us make it easier for them and learn how to listen better. Let us continue to raise questions and look at things critically. Despite these movements, women still face great challenges when it comes to speaking out and taking a stand for themselves.

Before you question a woman’s authenticity, please take a moment to stop and think about how much she is risking to do what she is doing because I can assure you, she is probably risking more than she will be getting in return.

We left 2017 by starting something bigger than ourselves. As previously stated, it is far from perfect, but that cannot negate the giant leaps it has brought for women everywhere. The end goal was never to tip the scales entirely in our favor—it was, and always has been to merely balance those said scales. We are almost there, ladies. Keep fighting.

 

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